I spent the weekend in Maine with my dear friend (and future travel partner) Mariel, whose boyfriend lives in Portland (Hi Sam!). I love Maine: it’s freezing right now, which was a shock coming straight from NC, but it’s so beautiful, everyone is kind, and it’s one of the few places where you can hike in the mountains and hear the ocean at the same time.
On Saturday we went for a hike around Morse Mountain, where we walked on the beach and leaned against the wind and watched the surf break. It was the perfect Maine day. We had plans to cook dinner and make apple pie that night, so on our way home we stopped at an adorable local farmstand. As I collected pound after pound of apples, I eyed the refrigerators containing local greens, eggs, and dairy products. I spotted some local, organic butter and had a thought. We most likely wouldn’t be getting to the store for Earth Balance. And the thought of adding fake (vegan) butter to this totally wholesome, local Maine meal didn’t feel right to me. So I suggested we buy some butter for our pie. We did, and the pie was great. I pouted for 30 seconds about the fact that it was too crumbly (I didn’t add enough water), but then five of us proceeded to eat the whole pie, so……I’d say it was a success.
our pie may or may not have looked like this. (source)
Here’s the thing. I’ll still be baking with Earth Balance and coconut oil over the holidays. I still don’t want eggs for breakfast. I’ll still be ordering my side salads without goat cheese for the time being. I didn’t eat any ice cream with my pie. But, as I explained to Mariel, I had to take ownership of my own decisions. Yes, butter is not great for you in significant quantities. But this was a special occasion, and based off of my assumptions regarding where this butter came from and how the animals who produced it were treated (and yes, these are just assumptions), I had no ethical qualms about eating it. And I think it is so important to examine and evaluate and sometimes test our own beliefs. I’m not a vegan because Person X and Person Y and Blogger Z are vegans. I’m not a vegan because it’s trendy, or because I want to lead an alternative lifestyle. Im not a vegan because I told somebody that I was, and now there’s no turning back. I eat a plant-based diet because I think it’s the best choice I can make for my own health (give or take a few vegan cupcakes), it allows me to contribute to minimal animal cruelty, and it’s the best choice I can make for the environment — especially when I eat locally grown and produced foods. And I’ve never felt more confident and in touch with that decision. Honestly, if someone else had suggested the butter purchase, I would have likely said no. Though it’s probably attributed to my weird aversion to feeling like others are telling me what to do, it’s also because I had to make the decision for myself. I had to break free of my own self-definitions and prove to myself why I’ve chosen this “lifestyle”. I had to ask myself why I make the decisions that I do, and I needed a good answer.
The pie was good, but the butter tasted a bit…..foreign to me. I hadn’t (knowingly) had any in months. And while the pie was delicious (can you beat a homemade pie like that? No, you cannot), it didn’t make me want to go buy another pound of butter. I may try to introduce a bit if dairy into my diet in the coming weeks because I will most likely consume it occasionally on our trip (for multiple reasons I might further discuss in another post). But honestly, I don’t exactly feel like it. I think I have lost a taste for most dairy products and I don’t want to have to worry about where my dairy is coming from (although I fully support ethical and sustainable dairies). At the end of the day, I’m still happy with where I am. And this confidence in my own decisions is much more meaningful than being able to recite the number of days it has been since an animal product touched my lips.
I’m not sharing this to get a pat on the back. Or a pat of butter. I just think it’s so healthy for us to understand why we make the choices we do. What we believe and what we put into our bodies matters. Whether or not you like thinking about it, where your food comes from matters. And understanding and choosing your own beliefs and opinions empowers you.
So, after all that heavy butter talk, I will leave you a description of the soup we made. It is by no means a recipe, but it is by all means delicious and seasonal. It was a team effort, and it turned out perfectly:
1. Heat oil in a pan and add a large chopped onion. Sauté until soft; add a few cloves of minced garlic. Sauté some more.
2. Add dried thyme (farmstand fresh is best!) generously. Add the flesh from two roasted squash (we used butternut and red kuri). Stir. Smell what you’ve got cooking. Smile.
3. Cook until you feel like adding water. Add as much water as you want. Throw in some salt, pepper and nutmeg for good measure. Simmer while making new friends. Simmer while making a pie crust and watching YouTube videos. Simmer while piling on sweaters on a chilly Maine night.
4. Before serving, rebelliously add a pat of butter (omit for vegan option duh). Purée it if you’d like, but I’m glad we didn’t (thanks Sam!). Serve to a room of hungry boys, but make sure to get some yourself. And remember: The more thyme you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.